In 1998 Ruth A. David, then the Central Intelligence Agency's top science and technology official, came away impressed from a trip to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab. On the flight back to Washington, she remarked to her deputy, Joanne Isham, that the agency could benefit from a high-powered, in-house technology incubator.
The CIA was having a tough time tapping into the information technology revolution, yet it had a pressing need to implement more advanced software tools for tasks such as Internet security to prevent hacker incursions. The agency could no longer rely solely on its traditional contractor base and government labs for the cutting-edge information technologies that would allow it to keep spying on the world. It had unsuccessfully tried a number of internal efforts to take advantage of new technologies. But it often had trouble reaching out beyond the confines of the agency. Security concerns frequently hindered it from detailing its needs to outside suppliers.
This article was originally published with the title The Company's Company.